James Black (1800-1872) was one of the early settlers to Washington, Hempstead County, Arkansas, moving to the area by the early 1820s. Black is famous for forging the legendary “Bowie Knife” for James Bowie. His life includes many successes including a successful career as a bladesmith, and public servant in the early years of Hempstead County, Arkansas. By the middle part of his life, he faced many tragedies, losing his family, career, and becoming a pauper. He later was known in the community of Washington as “Uncle Jimmy Black.” He went blind in his later years and was known for his ability to recount stories of early Hempstead County.
In this exhibit, learn more about the man behind the legend and stories of the “Bowie Knife.” Like many during his time, James Black moved west to Arkansas for new possibilities. He had successes and tragedies. Though he is best known for his blade making skills, there is more to his life that reflects the struggles of many on the frontier. His name continues to be mentioned as part of the history of Washington, Arkansas and America.